ICONOCLASM

A shard of carved marble shattered by war. Will some talented conservator be able to reconstruct the ruins of Palmyra – which were already ruins when they were explored for Western archaeology in the eighteenth century? And yet does even the memory of such ruins matter? Evidently it does, to me at least. There is a Buddhist practice in which all that is made is unmade and that which has been unmade is given to the sea. It is the making and unmaking of a mandala of sand. When the mandala is unmade the sand is swept with care and great attention into bags. The sand is then distributed from those bags some of it to those present at the act of deconstruction but most conveyed with due ceremony to a river or to the ocean so that those sacred grains can in time encircle the globe.

[The ‘shard of carved marble’ is a reference to Hamish Henderson’s lines: ‘We are caught in the millennial / conflict of Sicily / Look ! Bright shards of marble / and the broken cornice.’ ]